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Home / Driving Information / The Vehicle / Windshield Wipers

Windshield Wiper Basics

An important part of drivers education is understanding how the different components of a vehicle work. The windshield wipers are part of the car that we tend to forget about most days, but when it starts raining they’re the first thing we think about. The reality is windshield wipers are an important piece of safety equipment. They’re so important you can’t pass a vehicle inspection if your wipers don’t work properly.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about windshield wipers so you don’t get stuck in a downpour without them.

How Windshield Wipers Work

Window wipers, also known as wiper blades, are attached to moveable arms on the outside of the windshield. The arm is connected to a motor that controls the wipers. When the wipers are turned on an electrical signal is sent to the motor so that they move back and forth at a certain speed.

On most vehicles, the windshield wipers can be activated by a lever located to the right of the steering wheel. Pulling the lever down should activate the windshield wipers on their lowest setting. Pulling the level in towards you should cause the wipers to swipe just once across the windshield. Some modern cars are actually equipped with rain-sensing windshields that will turn on the wipers automatically if droplets are detected.

Usually, you can adjust the speed of your wipers to optimize performance for specific driving conditions. The number of speed settings can range from 1-10 speeds. The speed is typically adjusted by either turning a knob on the windshield wiper lever or pulling the lever down one more notch.

Maintaining and Replacing Windshield Wipers

Like many other parts of a vehicle, eventually, windshield wipers get worn out. Wiper blades are made of rubber that becomes less effective at wicking away water droplets over time. How quickly that happens depends on a few things.

If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain the wipers will wear out faster. The same is true if you live in an environment with extremely hot or cold temperatures. The quality of the rubber used to make the wipers also makes a difference.

The general recommendation is to replace your windshield wipers every 6-12 months, or within the timeframe recommended by the manufacturer. It’s also important to regularly inspect your wipers to look for signs that they need to be replaced.

Signs it’s time to replace your windshield wipers include:

  • Damage to the rubber.
  • The rubber is hard and stiff to the touch.
  • There’s a bent wiper frame.
  • Streaks are left behind while using the wipers.
  • Clicking, chattering, squeaking, or vibrating sounds can be heard when the wipers are in use.
  • Skipping across the window.

If your windshield wipers aren’t performing properly it’s time to replace them even if you don’t see signs of wear. As long as you keep an eye on how your windshield wipers look and function you should be able to get them replaced before they become a liability rather than a safety feature.